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I Built a Mega Outdoor Living Space and I Mean MEGA

May 31, 2015
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Imagine ignoring conventional wisdom and simply going ahead and building a mega deck. I recently built 900 square feet of deck space around the perimeter of  half my home and absolutely love it. I lost twenty pounds and built some solid muscle in the process. It has been one of my dreams for the past five years to have an attached deck. Not just any deck but one that is truly a living space. Cook, eat, nap, entertain, watch wildlife, commune with nature, and have lots of extra space to spread out with power tools so I can build big stuff that I can’t build indoors. Oh, and finally get a hot tub.

I took the plunge and ordered that hot tub a few weeks ago and then had to burn the midnight oil in building that dream deck by the time the hot tub arrived. My son, Thomas, worked beside me every step of the way. Love that sudden adult relationship with a twenty year old son. It made the project so much fun and boy, we got it done a lot quicker that I could have on my own. We beefed up the hot tub area of the deck with extra supports. It all came out pretty level, thanks to renting a laser transit on Day One. I highly, highly recommend doing that, especially with a deck that wraps around a home in all sorts of configurations.

My new hot tub arrived from Fitness Leisure out of St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s a five seater- not super fancy like those crazy amazing floor models you see in a retail spa outlet, but well-built, wonderful and perfect just the same. We rolled it onto the deck using garbage can dollies and I spent two hard days converting the wiring from 110 to 220 volts by installing a GFCI breaker box and then wiring to the main breaker box. (That heavy wire was a BEAR!!! to wire up.)

0527150824a Last night I climbed in the hot tub for the first time.Hummingbirds darted back and forth, the moon peeped through the clouds, and the frogs were in full chorus. I deemed it worth every cent and sore muscle to be able to sit in a hot tub on my own private elevated living space, high above the sloping ground, poison ivy and ticks, and with full view of a beautiful mini-forest.0531150806a

I learned a few lessons from all this.

1. Even when the going gets so tough you want to bawl, KEEP ON GOING!  It’ll be worth it in the end.

2. When everyone tells you 900 square feet of deck is too much, tell them it isn’t enough but its all you can afford.

3. Use building codes like your best friend. Seriously. I am love with building codes.

4. If you wire up a hot tub on your own,  get an electrician to at least follow up and insure you did it right. (Note: I DID wire it up correctly but my connections needed to be tighter.)

5. Be creative like crazy- you don’t get too many opportunities like this in one lifetime.

Today, I am going to savor and rest. We threw a graduation party last night for my seventh son and the hot tub was a big hit. I crashed at 11pm but the party went on until 3AM according to my very sleepy sons this morning.

I have lots to still do, like install a permanent railing of steel cable, three sets of stairs, and finish a pergola.  Then on to designing some cool deck furniture. Can’t go around sitting on five gallon buckets with a folded towel on top forever. Actually, if I modded them…. Hmmm…..

Medical report:  I go in for surgery this week to correct a major hearing loss in one ear. I cannot lift or sneeze or anything for a month. This wreaks havoc with my building projects, not to mention duckweed harvesting but it will be worth it. My world has become more and more silent. I am lucky to be able to hear the loudest of birds outdoors. I can only imagine what the world will sound like once I recover from this surgery. Wish me luck!

Latest ISCDRA Duckweed Newsletter Now Available

April 9, 2015

While some of you may be scratching your heads at why I would include a link to this particular newsletter- (After all, don’t you have enough to read without wading through fifty pages of science and news stories about duckweed???) this is one newsletter that means a whole lot to me.  I have been on a team developing it from the ground up, two years ago. My contributions have included interviewing duckweed movers and shakers, writing articles, and being part of an editing team led by the world’s foremost duckweed researcher, Dr. Klaus Appenroth. Also on the active role as team member- Eduardo Mercovitch from MamaGrande in Argentina.

I’ve learned a whole lot about what it takes to develop an early-stage scientific journal. Yes, sometimes our team pulls their hair out over deadlines, etc… but it has been a labor of great love and greater purpose- chronicling the development of what promises to be one of the top sustainable solutions to global food and water shortages. It’s been truly an honor. Hope you readers enjoy the articles and catch the excitement/struggles/awe that all captivated by duckweed experience every day.

Here’s the link to the newsletter.

Special note to Klaus and Eduardo- Can hardly wait to see you both at the Kyoto conference July 3-6 of this year. We will have to have a special toast to pulling together this unique newsletter eight times thus far.  It has truly been an honor to work with you both.

As for everyone reading this, the third  International Conference on Duckweed Research and Applications is officially open for call for papers and general registration. If you are a duckweed researcher or interested in networking business opportunities in duckweed- this is YOUR event. Right now we cannot grow enough and won’t be able to for thirty years- the demand is that great.

Free Webinar on Duckweed for Fish and Poultry Farming

April 4, 2015
Attention:  Fish and Poultry Farmers,
Love saving money on feed costs and raising healthier fish and poultry? We do too and that is why we LOVE duckweed.
If you’ve ever wondered the following:
– What’s all the fuss about duckweed anyway?
– How to wild harvest duckweed for feeding to chickens or tilapia
– How to raise tilapia and duckweed in a win/win integrated system
– How to raise duckweed in a small pond using animal waste
– How much duckweed should be fed to fish or poultry?
We’ve assembled a panel of hands-on experts to describe the “How To’s” and answer your questions.

David Beebe of Cherry Ridge Organic Farm, Middlebrook, VA. David raises tilapia and uses duckweed to “mine” the resulting waste nutrients from his fish tanks. He then returns those nutrients back as fresh feed for his tilapia, reducing his feeds costs by a large percentage

Ken Carman, naturalist and manager of Roxbury Park, Meggett, SC.    Ken has wild-harvested hundreds of tons of free duckweed for feeding to chickens and as mulch for his park. He’ll talk about his methods for duckweed harvesting and how his poultry have responded since adding fresh duckweed to their diets.

Meet Dr. Louis Landesman, “Dr. Duckweed” who is known around the world for his expertise on integrated farming systems that include duckweed. He will explain how to design your own integrated system that reuses nutrients and water over and over with the engine power of the sun.

It’s going to be an information-packed hour!  Have questions for the panel to incorporate into their presentations? Email them  to Tamra Fakhoorian, host, ahead of time.  tamraf9@gmail.com  There will be a dedicated Q and A session during the webinar as well.
 ILA Webinar:   Tuesday, April 7th,  2015  Noon Eastern  (New York time zone)   
For our international friends, try this time zone converter for easily calculating event time:  http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/


Note: This meeting will be recorded.  Participation limited to the first 20 responders.   RSVP to meeting host, tamraf9@gmail.com
 

Beating the Duckweed Drum

March 18, 2015

A couple years ago, I had a meeting with the owner of a local farm supply store. I was hoping he could point me in the direction of local cattle and hog farms so I could procure manure for testing. The conversation got around to what all I was planning to DO with the manure. I happily talked about my duckweed venture and my plans for the biomass. This gentleman scratched his head, tried to keep a straight face, and made an effort to humor me.  Have to admit, it did bother me a little. As long as I found some manure though, I was happy. To heck with the critics.

Last year I stopped in again to that farm store. The owner spotted me and told me he’d seen me on the 6:00 o’clock news the night before. He was delighted for me. That was pretty cool, considering his resistance to the project the year before.

Today I stopped in that same farm store to pick up a few supplies. Just for fun, I asked to see the owner as I wanted to give him an update on what this crazy duckweed lady has been up to. Alas, he was out to lunch, so I gave a message to his gal behind the desk. The message was this:

“As a result of raising duckweed for the past two years here in Western Kentucky, I’ve now got duckweed projects forming in four countries.” Her jaw dropped.

I left with my purchases and a tiny smile.

Free Webinar: How to Conduct Duckweed Growth Trials

March 2, 2015
Have a few seats left for this event tomorrow morning, so I thought I’d invite my readers to attend. Please RSVP ASAP if interested. tamraf9@gmail.com 
Dear Duckweed Aficionados,Bill Nye, the science guy would love our next ILA Round Table where we dig into simplified testing methods for duckweed growth trials.  You don’t need a PhD in Chemistry or even have access to a laboratory.  These are techniques that anyone can master.

You will learn…

  • What basic, low-cost equipment you’ll need (most can be bought off eBay or from your local store)
  • How to set up simple growth trials
  • How to interpret results, equipping you with a solid foundation for duckweed production on a larger scale.
  • Tips for “When All Else Fails…”

 

Meeting Time: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Noon Eastern (UTC/GMT-7)     

RSVP: Tamraf9@gmail.com     Limited to the first 25 responders.

How Toastmasters Changed My Life

February 4, 2015

Five years ago, I found myself preparing a presentation on duckweed for a conference in China. The audience would be PhD world-class researchers and I didn’t even have a college degree. I felt totally out of my league. So I hunted on the Internet and discovered that there was a club called Toastmasters in Paducah, KY that helped members learn how to communicate more effectively. Perfect!

I visited a meeting. Without warning, they made me get up and tell a little bit about myself. I remember turning bright red and not being able to think of a single thing to say. The club members told me that that happens a lot at first and were so supportive, I knew I’d come to the right place. That was five years ago.

During these past five years of being a Toastmaster, I have become amazingly confident and actually LOVE speaking in public at a moment’s notice. I’ve given over fifty speeches so far and look forward to receiving my Distinguished Toastmaster award this coming summer- the highest honor one can achieve in Toastmasters. I’ve enjoyed serving in various club officer roles through the years and each one has taught me solid leadership skills. As a result, I felt confident in co-founding and leading the first nonprofit in the world dedicated to commercial duckweed production, ILA (International Lemna Association) and my own duckweed company, GreenSun Products.

I currently serve as Area 65 Governor for Toastmasters, Intl. With the encouragement of my peers, I’ve recently decided to run for an elected position- that of Division F Governor. I’ve never run for election before so this is yet another fascinating learning curve.

I currently belong to THREE clubs at the same time and enjoy many friendships with fellow club members. These are my peeps- we’re all self-motivators, self-learners, and just a bit on the nerdy side. Seems like every time I turn around, one of us is getting promoted, are handed a huge raise or land a better job because of our rock-solid skill sets learned in Toastmasters.

Remember that China presentation? Nailed it big-time and even ended up moderating sessions at the conference!

Boy, I love Toastmasters!
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Duckweed Travel Adventures

January 6, 2015

1208140225eIn December, I traveled to the Philippines as a consultant on a duckweed pilot project. I was gone for eighteen days.. It took 23 hours of flights to go from Iowa’s frigid cold and snow to Manila’s heat and humidity.  It was a lovely shock to my system to see green landscapes in the middle of winter. I couldn’t get enough of the rice paddies, mango trees, towering bamboo forests. Still, the prettiest green of all… DUCKWEED PONDS!Duckweed Trial Pond

My contacts at MP Wood Philippines Inc. turned out to be an energetic, highly talented group of people who saw to it that I was treated to the whole Filipino experience-home cooked delicacies, entertainment, in depth exploration of both rural and city life including several market visits, and scenic travel around the region. I experienced cultural events like a pre-wedding celebration that lasted all weekend in a tiny village and a Christmas show, food, and gifts for underprivileged children, hosted by sixty Montessori school children. What stunned me was that the kids sang and danced to the very same contemporary holiday songs that my daughter sang in last year’s elementary school program in Kentucky. The holiday song circuit is indeed a global one,IMG_20141216_092131

I was introduced to researchers, university heads, professors, students, a wide variety of farmers and their farms, as well as the extended families and friends of my hosts. We would all talk late into the night after tucking away amazing meals. No need for a TV as the conversations were always lively. I felt almost guilty as I was having WAY too much fun.

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Solar dryer showing heat collecting tunnel and dryer itself.

I did put in plenty of time on the duckweed pilot though. I ran hundreds of water quality tests and duckweed mat profiles. I did a ton of practical research on local organic fertilizers and solved algal bloom issues. I expanded the pilot to include another large pond for a new sustainable model and trained a couple of folks in monitoring techniques.  I helped tweak the design on a half-finished solar dryer. It was almost finished on the day that I left. I knew it was going to be a winner when a thermometer broke from the heat in the dryer’s solar tunnel. Now THAT’S HOT!

The last evening, the team surprised me with a going-away dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The featured dish of the evening was roasted wild boar. Very delicious. I felt like they killed the fatted calf for me and I was deeply moved. We toasted our friendship and united vision for a more sustainable country with glasses of Red Horse beer. They asked me to come back and I promised I would. Beyond the business side of things, I do feel like I’ve left a piece of my heart in the Philippines. Lovely country, lovely people. Great place for duckweed production.

This Week- Roof Hack

October 21, 2014

In painting the exterior of my home this fall, I noticed that the underlayment or “decking” was rotting under some eaves on my back porch. While I didn’t have water leaking into the house yet, I figured that now was better than later in trying a repair.

I put together a 12 foot tall scaffold and worked up the courage to climb up on the roof. Luckily, it wasn’t all that steep. This portion was covered with a 45mm EPDM rubber layer. I peeled back the EPDM and tore off enough shingles to determine where the rotting part stopped and the dry plywood started. I used a shallow cut via my Skill saw and cut a 16″ by 20 ft strip of plywood off the edge of the roof. As several of the rafter ends had rotted as well, I had to shore them up by cutting replicas out of 2×4’s and cut easements for the additional supports. Each piece required 4 specially angled cuts. A royal pain but one nice perk- my nail gun started working again after a year of retirement and made the job that much easier. I then reinstalled new pressure treated plywood, a layer of tar paper, a metal lip along the perimeter, and rolled the EDPM back in place. I used big head roofing nails to hammer everything down and followed up with roofing tar and fiberglass reinforcment netting running the length of the edge.

Sounds simple. Right?

Now the ugly details…

I had to get over my fear of heights. Drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on the roof and enjoying the fall colors of my woods helped tremendously. Wine or beer would have probably worked as well. If the roof could hold the weight, I could build a cool deck up there…  (me and my tree house fantasies…)

Whoever built that porch, sporadically insulated it but didn’t use tar paper or plastic sheeting so the wind was free to blow up under the siding, through the cracks in the insulation, and then through some really butt-ugly pressed wood serving as the inside wall. I’ve suffered for three winters with that enclosed porch stealing heat from the adjoining kitchen. Now I know why.

Wasps- As the walls were basically hollow and easily entered through large exterior holes, literally thousands of them have lived and died in those walls and ceiling. None of the living ones stung me which was nice. I couldn’t find my can of Raid, so I struggled with the concept of letting them live. They weren’t bothering me so I’ve taken the high road and am letting them be.

I took a shower  and discovered lots of wasp wings in my hair. Must have made me look quite lovely waltzing into Lowes for that plywood yesterday.

In the midst of fixing the roof of the porch, I got a little crazy and tore out the two remaining single pane aluminum windows and replace them with double pane Pella’s that I had laying around. It’s nice to be able to crank the new ones open and let the breeze blow wasp wings around now. I had to tear out the window framing studs and move everything over a few inches which is always fun for someone who has NEVER gotten the hang of perfectly “straight with the planet” anything. That and no upper arm strength so if nails and screws look like your grandma made an attempt at framing a wall, you’ll know why. Luckily, all will be covered up and no one will be the wiser. I’ve muttered THAT to myself more times than I can remember in this home retrofit. Am seriously considering ripping off that siding, sheathing it and replacing with new siding. That’s only a day’s worth of work. Or… nail a crude greenhouse to the whole shebang and use it for passive solar heating this winter. I like that idea better.

Old crappy porch- my new breakfast and plant haven- getting there!!!

Link to KFVS Channel 12 Interview

September 4, 2014

Thanks to Nicole and team for helping spread the word on duckweed’s many uses!

 
http://www.kfvs12.com/clip/10546554/ky-woman-grows-duckweed-on-purpose

 

Note: Nicole mentions that I eat duckweed. I do but wanted to add that it is only select species grown in very clean

environments and usually cooked. Don’t want to mislead anyone and get someone sick.

TV Reporter visits Duckweed Farm

September 3, 2014

Nicole Cartmell of Cape Girardeau, Missouri KFVS Channel 12  interviewed me today out at the duckweed ponds.  The news clip will run here in the next couple of days. She asked a lot of great questions and all went smoothly. That is… until she got a shot of me  harvesting duckweed with a pole net.  NicoleAs I lifted the heavy net out of the water, the net fell off the pole. We both started whooping with laughter. RETAKE…

Here’s a picture of her in front of Walden Pond, where the duckweed was in fine form today- gorgeous coloration, an even green mat across the entire surface, and a silvery glint if you looked at it at shore level.

BTW: The Second Annual Duckweed Open House is a week from Saturday. 10-2pm. RSVP tamraf9@gmail.com

Next post will detail updates. Have folks coming from a couple of states. Looking forward to a great turnout.

 

 

 

 

GreenSun Duckweed Farm Tour Announced

August 13, 2014

OnGoldenPondIn association with the International Lemna Association, Mother Earth News and Grit’s “Homesteading Education Month,” GreenSun Products is pleased to invite everyone to our second annual duckweed farm tour here in Western Kentucky. The event kicks off at 10:00am on Saturday, Sept. 13 with tours of our duckweed growing ponds. You will learn how to raise high-protein duckweed yourself for feeding to fish, chickens, and hogs, as well as many ways to incorporate duckweed in a robust garden setting. Learn how to raise earthworms, black soldier flies, and more with the incredibly versatile duckweed- the smallest plant on the planet.

Then settle back in a lawn chair next to a duckweed pond for a little country visiting, duckweed hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting showcasing local vineyards. Bring along a fishing pole and a picnic lunch to make your visit complete!

RSVP for directions: tamraf9@gmail.com

The Benefits of Duckweed- Podcast now available

August 11, 2014

Tamra Fakhoorian This was a fun interview I did with Mike Podlensy of the Average Person Gardening Show last week. Mike has ordered his first batch of duckweed starter and is going to grow it in his garden now as well.

Quoting his Facebook site:

“In this week’s episode, Mike heads west to the blue grass state of Kentucky and interviews Tamra Fakhoorian, an industry leading expert in the field of duckweed.

Tamra is going to tell us all about duckweed’s uses in food, fuel, water filtration and how many other countries are using duckweed as part of their sustainability.

From there, Tamra is going to take you step by step so you can get started growing duckweed, which species to use, and how to use them to help improve the soil structure in your home vegetable garden.

That, and so much more on this week’s Vegetable Gardening Podcast!

In this episode, here’s what we’ll cover:

-What is duckweed
-Various species of duckweed
-How to grow duckweed
-How to use duckweed in your garden
-International Lemna Association
-Ongoing research about the benefits of Duckweed

 

http://www.averagepersongardening.com/podcast/190MikeInterviewsTamraFakhoorianAboutDuckweed.html “

New ILA Member Wild-harvests Duckweed in Heart of Brooklyn

July 29, 2014

 

Harvesting Duckweed with a Pitchfork

July 21, 2014

Ken Carman, naturalist from Roxbury Park, Hollywood SC, demonstrates how he harvests wild duckweed using a simple pitchfork. He only harvests duckweed on windy days when the lemna bunches up to more than three inches deep.  He estimates that he has harvested over twenty tons of duckweed this way over the past two years. What does he use it for? Compost and chicken feed.  Visit http://www.RoxburyPark.org for some the best photos of wildlife you’lll see in the region.

East Duckweed Coast Tour

July 20, 2014

Am traveling this week on a duckweed bioprospecting hunt. In addition to collecting lots of cool duckweed strains, look forward to visiting fellow duckweed friends and associates from the South Carolina coastal regions northward to New Jersey. Am kicking off the week with a visit to Ken and Brenda Carman and take a tour of the new Roxbury Park in South Charleston County, SC where Ken is caretaker/naturalist.Ken is the duckweed affectionado that discovered lemna growing underground after being buried for 15 months in a mulch pile. I hope to get a sample of the strain.

Drove 700 miles yesterday after an informative training session for Toastmaster governors in Indianapolis, IN. Love my new TM friends! Such go-getters.

I knew I needed to give it up for the night when the thought of curling up in my backseat in the parking lot of a truck stop started looking real appealing. I drove on another twenty miles though and found a room at 2:00am. Those truck driver days are over.

Basement full of water

July 6, 2014

I have a rental home that was vacated a month ago and the power turned off. I have been terrifically busy on duckweed projects so I didn’t get around to prepping the house in order to put on the market until just yesterday. I had to go down into the basement for something. Imagine my surprise to see a quiet, shimmer of a deep pool of water instead of a dry concrete basement.  If it had been a swimming pool, it would have had a marker stating, “3.5 ft deep No Running.” I noted the  bobbing washing machine and dryer tethered by hoses and cords. Then I nearly cried at the sight of my two-year old, relatively new electric water heater, drowning quietly in the corner. What the heck? How did THIS happen? What do I do? HELP!!!

Naturally this event has fallen on a holiday weekend.

“It’s just water,” I reasoned and came up with a holiday weekend fix. This morning, I enlisted the aid of one of my sons  to help me load up my beloved trash pump and hoses from my ponds. It only took 45 minutes to move all that water to a now-flooded backyard. (300 gal/minute- that pump doesn’t mess around.)

Who knows what the basement will look like in the morning as my electricity won’t get turned on for at least a day or two and I don’t know if it is because of a broken water line or all the rain we’ve had lately plus a sump pump without electricity. How do people cope with this? I turned off the main breaker but don’t know what else to do. Are my appliances and water heater ruined for good?

Has this happened to you?

 

 

 

Duckweed in the News

July 4, 2014

Last OnGoldenPondweekend, a television crew lead by Mychaela Bruner from News Channel Six in Paducah, KY came out to do a second story on my duckweed developments. Here is the link to the video.  I am very thankful for the interest and support by News Channel Six, my local community and state leaders.

 

For $10,000- What is the Smallest Flowering Plant on Earth?

June 24, 2014

If you guessed Wolffia, you’d be right!  You’d win big at Jeopardy but sorry, there is no payoff from my blog site. On the bright side, you’d be in an elite but growing circle of duckweed folks “in the know” and now have the potential for looking pretty smart in biology class. Yes, Wolffia is the world’s smallest flowering plant. You’d have to line up 40 of the little green potato-like buggers end-to-end to make an inch. They flower and produce seeds but well… it’s a rare occurence and even I have not gotten to witness the holy event. They reproduce mainly by budding and reproduce like crazy when awash in fresh water containing ample nutrients. Wolffia is the fastest growing plant on the planet, doubling in weight every 24-48 hours, and up to 50% dry weight of the closest thing to animal protein that Nature can offer. Here is a shot of a couple of species that I am currently growing.  Tastes like lettuce, cabbage, and a hint of spinach. Disclaimer:  Even though folks in South Asia eat it routinely, don’t go around eating wild-harvested Wolffia as our immune systems are simply not up to snuff.

The World's Smallest Flowering Plant- Wolffia

Duckweed Fertilizing Tips

April 8, 2014

Our ILA Round Table workshop was recorded today with Dr. Louis Landesman acting as leading expert on fertilization tips for duckweed production. It’s an hour long but one of the best hours you could spend if you were really interested in growing duckweed for urban farming or commercial purposes.

Thanks, Louis. Wonderful job!

 

 

My Saturday project- RO filtration

March 29, 2014

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Read more…

While the Weather Outside is Frightening…

March 25, 2014
L. punctata grows happily in a south-facing window

L. punctata grows happily in a south-facing window

A sunny window and spring green loveliness of happy duckweed make up for the damp chill of March.  This duckweed was grown primarily on aquarium water from my goldfish with a bit of trace pond muck for micronutrients.  It is doubling every three days at present. Another month and sunlight intensity will move that growth rate up to nearly a doubling every one and a half days.

Photo taken by my good friend, Linda King.

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